Homeschooling a child with a mental illness can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Adrienne shares what you need to know about homeschooling kids with OCD.
First, let’s clarify. When I say ‘OCD,’ I’m probably not talking about what you might envision. Society readily accepts the term OCD for little quirks and preferences.
We throw around the phrase, “I’m so OCD” if we like our M&M’s sorted by color or our desks arranged a certain way. However, society offers very little acceptance for the actual mental illness.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a prison for the individual suffering and equally strenuous on family members.
What is OCD?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder. Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, usually fear or worry. Compulsions are rituals or actions performed to relieve those unwanted thoughts. For example, someone who fears contamination may wash their hands repeatedly to alleviate the worry of being dirty.
For someone with OCD, these rituals can become so invasive that it’s hard to proceed with normal life.
Individuals with OCD have a difficult time performing basic, everyday tasks like self-care or even eating due to the fears and time-consuming compulsions. The compulsions can become so torturous the person suffering isn’t able to leave the house or participate in regular social activities.
Both of my boys have OCD. Adolescence is a common trigger, and like most cases, OCD showed up for our family when my kids were around age ten. My boys are six years apart so once we tackled OCD in one child, we got hit again. Fun, fun.
Homeschooling a child with OCD has been extremely challenging at times. Although I’ve had days that have nearly broken me, I wouldn’t go back and change our decision to homeschool.
Currently, we are in our eleventh year of homeschooling. Our youngest son is in eighth grade, and our oldest son is now a full-time college student. (Yay!) Some days I feel like this journey is almost over. Other days I feel like I have a LONG way to go.
What You Need to Know About Homeschooling Kids with OCD
If you’re homeschooling a child with OCD, anxiety, or another mental illness, there are some things you need to know.
You are not alone!
Homeschooling can be pretty isolating at times. Especially when you have a child with special needs. Joining co-ops, going on field trips, and connecting with other homeschooling families like the homeschool community tell us to do isn’t easy.
Experts report that 1 in every 200 children and teens suffer from OCD.
“This is about the same number of children and teens with diabetes. That means four or five kids with OCD are likely to be enrolled in an average size elementary school. In a medium to large high school, there could be 20 students struggling with the challenges caused by OCD.” -International OCD Foundation
Although this number is high, if you homeschool, you’re probably the only one at co-op dealing with homeschooling a child with OCD.
You’ll feel alone, but that is a lie!
I’m always so shocked to learn how many parents are struggling with the same or similar situations. People who understand are out there. If you can’t find your tribe IRL, then find a supportive Facebook group or search online for support groups in your area.
You need to take care of yourself.
Perhaps it’s a cliché momism, but it’s true. You must prepare for this battle! If you struggle with your own anxiety or depression, deal with it positively. Seek therapy. Make changes to your health. Take a yoga class. See a movie alone. Do whatever works for you.
Make sure you’re carving out time each day to breathe. Be proactive in caring for your own physical, mental, and spiritual needs because your family needs you strong.
Homeschooling is not to blame.
Your child isn’t suffering because you decided to homeschool. This is one the most frustrating misconceptions, and a homeschool mom worry to let go of right now! People often blame homeschooling for any and every problem your family will ever encounter. Falling prey to that type of thinking is easy.
I don’t know what we would have done had homeschooling not become an option for our family. Even though we never planned on this path, I am so thankful for the flexibility it has provided over the years at times when our family has needed it most. I don’t blame homeschooling. I’m grateful for it!
Your school days are going to look different than others’.
And that is okay! We get into trouble when we compare ourselves to others under any circumstances. There will be days when you aren’t able to complete any of the lessons you had planned. You’ll feel like you didn’t get anything productive or educational done.
Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t feel like a failure if getting fresh air was the most you could accomplish. Some days are just like this. Thank goodness for the flexibility!
Some days you’ll want to quit homeschooling.
I think all homeschooling parents go through feeling like this, but I’m going to take a leap and say parents with struggling kids probably consider throwing in the towel more often. No?
Here’s the thing. If homeschooling is no longer a fit for your family that’s okay. Lots of families make the switch one way or the other. But, don’t decide to quit based on emotion or fear you’re screwing up. Children will have struggles no matter where they go to school.
Finding specialists who support homeschooling is vital.
Seeing a professional who doesn’t understand or support your decision to homeschool is extremely discouraging. It’s not always about homeschooling. Remember this fact when you walk into a specialist’s office.
Look for doctors and therapists who support homeschooling. You should always feel encouraged by your team of professionals. Don’t get me wrong. Should you feel challenged? Yes. Judged? Never!
You need a friend who gets it.
Beyond the support of therapists or support groups, you need a friend. You need the kind of loving support that comes from a hug or a shoulder to cry on. Sharing your story with someone who understands what you’re going through is both comforting and encouraging, especially if they happen to be a fellow homeschooling parent.
Are you homeschooling a child with OCD, anxiety, or other mental illness?
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Adrienne Bolton is a freelance writer and veteran homeschool mom. She began homeschooling in 2009 to meet the needs of her oldest son who struggled with the public school setting. Her boys have had different experiences with homeschooling, but both have thrived in spite of her. Her oldest son transitioned from public school after fourth grade and her youngest is 100% homegrown, having never stepped foot in a traditional classroom. Now with one son in college and one working his way through high school, she is proof anyone can do this. She writes with humor and heart, peppered with occasional snark and sarcasm. When she is not writing or working you can find her with a good book in hand, snuggling her massive Pitbull fur baby, or making something yummy in the kitchen. She loves to cook, bake, and be outdoors in the sunshine. The beach is her happy place and she's a true flip-flop wearing Florida girl. Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.